Tagged: Baltimore Orioles

Jeremy Nowak Baseball Card Collection

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll likely recall the awesome adventure I had with Baltimore Orioles prospect Jeremy Nowak. If not, take a couple minutes to read part one and part two of the story. I’m confident that you’ll agree it’s one of the feel-good baseball stories of 2012. I’m anxious to see where Jeremy gets assigned to start the season and after a very impressive 2013 campaign in High-A Frederick, I’ll enjoy following his career again this season.

I’ve collected baseball cards on and off since the late 1980s, and when I learned last fall that Jeremy was featured on a number of cards in the 2012 Bowman Chrome set, I knew I had to collect as many as I could. It’s been fun to add a bunch of his cards to my collection over the last few months, and while I’m always scouring eBay for new additions, I thought I’d share the cards I have now.

Here we go:

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On the left we have Jeremy’s base card, which you’ll notice reads “1st Bowman Chrome Card,” as it’s his first appearance in any official (rather than issued by a team) baseball card set. On the right is the Refractor version of the card, which is Topps’ fancy way of saying it’s shiny. If you look at the two cards together, you’ll notice that the base card has a white border and the Refractor has a metallic border. It also shimmers in the light when you tilt it.

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Next up, and pictured above, are the Xfractor and Blue Wave Refractor on the left and right, respectively. The Xfractor, you’ll see, is metallic like the Refractor, but is made up of squares, which didn’t really come through in the scan. The Blue Wave Refractor looks awesome when you move it in the light. As I understand it, this card wasn’t available in packs — you had to send your package wrappers in to Topps, which would then send you packs of Blue Wave Refractors.

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The above two cards are pretty cool and one is serial numbered. Experienced collectors will know what this means, but if you’re new to the collecting game, it means each card has a unique number stamped on it. On the left, the Green Refractor isn’t numbered, but it’s a fairly rare pull. On the left, the Blue Refractor is numbered 86/250, which means that Topps only produced 250 of this card and mine is number 86.

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The final two cards are the rarest of Jeremy’s cards that I have so far. As you might guess, the Purple Refractor is the one on the left. It’s numbered 97/199, which means that it’s rarer than the Blue Refractor. And finally, on the right, you’ll see Jeremy’s short-print variation. Each card in the 2012 Bowman Chrome set has a short print, or SP. These cards aren’t numbered but the rumor is that only about 75 of each exist, making them extremely rare. As you’ll see, the photo is of Jeremy in the Orioles home uniform, which is doctored, unfortunately. The other cards feature him in Baltimore’s Spring Training uniform, but unless I’m mistaken, the SP card is Photoshopped.

There are still a handful of Jeremy’s cards in the set, including cards numbered out of 50, 25 and even 5! I recently bought one numbered out of 50 on eBay, but the seller had to refund me because he lost the card. Here’s hoping he tracks it down. Rarer cards that I’ll likely never encounter are the four printing plates used to make the card (each numbered out of 1) and the Superfractor, which is numbered out of 1, too. The Superfractor sold several months back in the neighborhood of $165, and because many collectors are obsessed with hanging onto Superfractors, I don’t know when it’ll hit the market again.

For good measure, he’s the back of Jeremy’s card:

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Even though the fronts are all different, the backs are basically the same. The back was neat to read; I had no idea about his 35-game hitting streak in college, for example. Finally, I can’t resist adding that if you check out his 2011 home run totals toward the bottom of the card, one of those five long balls is the one I retrieved!

UPDATE: June 9, 2013

I’ve added a really cool card to this collection and while it looks virtually the same as another one, this one’s extra special:

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This is another Blue Refractor numbered out of 250. The neat thing with this one is it’s numbered 11/250, as you can see here:

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The significance of this number is this is the uniform number Jeremy wore in 2012 with the Frederick Keys. Collectors go nuts for numbered cards that feature a player’s uniform number, and I’m no different. I’m pumped to add this one to the collection!

UPDATE: February 6, 2015

Over the last several months, I’ve managed to add three more cards to my collection, and each one is rarer than the last. Let’s start with this one:

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This is the gold variation, numbered out of 50. For those keeping score, this means there are only 50 of these gold versions floating around out there. Mine is #14/50, and although it’s a great addition to my collection, it’s not nearly as rare as this next one:

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I never thought I’d have a shot at the red variation, of which only five copies exist in the world. But, here it is in my collection. Mine is #5/5, and I think the red looks awesome. The back is basically the same as every other of Jeremy’s cards, but you’ll notice the numbering on the upper left:

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Drum roll, please.

This next card is the crown jewel of the collection. It’s the black printing plate that was actually used to produce all of Jeremy’s cards in this set. Bowman released all four printing plates — cyan, magenta, yellow and black — used on the printing press itself, and I managed to score this one. Because it’s a printing plate, it’s actually made of metal. And, because of the way printing technology works, the image is completely reversed:

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On the rear of the card, you’ll see the sticker that proves there’s only one black printing plate in the world:

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Meeting Jeremy Nowak

If you’ve read the details of my first baseball road trip of 2012 by now, you’ll know that I’ve been saving the best story for last. But first, a little background.

My trip would include a stop at Harry Grove Stadium, home of the Frederick Keys, but this visit would be extra special. Finally, I’d get the chance to meet Keys outfielder Jeremy Nowak, who I’ve been in touch with since last December. The full story is at this link, and I definitely recommend you check it out before proceeding. It’s a definite baseball feel-good story.

Obviously, I was pretty pumped to meet Jeremy. I’ve been following his progress closely in 2012 and he’s having a career year. In addition to being named to the Carolina League All-Star team, he’s been among the Keys’ statistical leaders all season. In fact, despite a stint on the DL earlier in the season, his 68 hits put him first among the entire Baltimore Orioles farm system, as you can see from this stat tracker on the O’s website:

I’d kept in touch with him on Facebook before departing on my trip, so he knew I’d be showing up at the Keys game against the Carolina Mudcats on May 23. (You can read about that visit here.)

The weather throughout the afternoon of the game was miserable enough that at times, it looked like the game would be called off before it even began. Still, I hoped to spot Jeremy on the field — or in the players’ parking lot, at worst — at some point to say hello.

Shortly before the scheduled start of the game, the Keys took the field and it wasn’t long until I spotted #11:

Despite the weather, the game was indeed on, and the Keys began to get warmed up. I took a ton of photos of Jeremy, but I’ll just share a few here so I don’t look like a demented stalker:

At the end of the warmup, I stood at the fence and when Jeremy looked up, we sort of made eye contact and he came over to say hello. Even though the game was fast approaching, he was enormously friendly and it was awesome to finally meet him. I wanted to get a photo with him, and we decided to meet up again after the game.

Jeremy was batting third and hitting from the left side, so I moved over to the seats above the visitors’ third base-side dugout to get some pictures of him at the plate:

He struck out during his first at-bat and after I spent the top of the fourth inning in the broadcast booth being interviewed about my website by Adam Pohl, I raced back to field level in time to see Jeremy hit a single in the bottom of the inning:

And when Michael Flacco doubled two batters later, Jeremy moved up to third base:

As the game progressed, the weather got miserable. Don’t get confused — I was still having the time of my life, but the rain and darkness made the quality of my photos quickly deteriorate. Jeremy came up again in the fifth inning, and this time, I was eating a late dinner in a seat down the first base line where I had this view:

Then, with runners on second and third and one out, and the the Keys trailing 2-0, Jeremy blasted a Kyle Blair pitch over the fence in right field! It was on a line and hit the billboards above and behind the outfield fence hard enough that it bounced back onto the field, where Mudcats right fielder Anthony Gallas scooped it up and tossed it to the Frederick bullpen. From there, a Keys reliever flipped the to ball to a couple fans who’d run to the area.

When I saw the ball take off, I jumped out of my seat and thought how it’d be so cool to run behind the fence, grab the ball and give it to Jeremy after the game. (The home was his second at the High-A level.) But when I saw it come back on the field and eventually make its way to the fans, I forgot about it and just stood up and cheered. I probably should’ve run toward the Keys dugout to get a picture of Jeremy crossing home plate, but I think I was in enough awe that I just stood and clapped. Eventually, I snapped out of it and got this rainy photo of him heading toward the dugout after scoring:

I was still pumped, so I emailed my wife a quick message:

JEREMY JUST HIT A HOME RUN!!!!!!!!!

And my wife, who cares about baseball as much as I care about molecular biology, responded with:

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jeremy had one more at-bat (a strikeout in the two-run sixth) and as the rain intensified, the game was called in the seventh. Final score: Frederick 7, Carolina 2. In other words, Jeremy’s three-run bomb scored the game’s winning runs.

One of the neatest features about Harry Grove Stadium is that after the game, the players exit the field, walk up a set of stairs at the end of the seating bowl and cross the concourse to their clubhouse. Naturally, I was waiting to congratulate Jeremy and shake his hand. When I spotted him, I went to meet him with a huge smile on my face and told him congrats. He shook my hand quickly and said, “That’s your ball.”

Then he disappeared as I stood there starting to suspect what was happening.

He was referring to something he wrote in his letter to me back in December. Here’s a close-up of what he said:

I’d long since stopped hoping I might get the ball; to me, the big prize was not only meeting him, but seeing him hit a game-winning home run for the Keys.

Minutes later, Jeremy returned with a ball in his hand and a fan trailing behind — only the fan was carrying a bat that I knew was Jeremy’s. It turns out that he’d given the fan one of his bats in exchange for getting the ball back.

This time, it was Jeremy who approached with a huge smile and handed me the ball, which he’d also signed for me. I was completely speechless for a moment as I stumbled to remember to say thank you. After Jeremy and the other fan, Jason, told me the story of the ball/bat exchange, I took a photo of the two of them with the bat:

And then got a photo taken of Jeremy and me:

The three of us stood and chatted for a minute, and Jason asked, “Are the two of you friends? How do you know each other?” In a moment that almost seemed scripted, we both responded at the same time, “It’s a long story!”

Soon enough, Jeremy headed into the clubhouse and I hung out on the concourse for a bit, where I took this photo of the ball:

I’ve since taken these better shots of it:

You know how you sometimes build something up in your mind and then the actual event falls short? And other times, it’s pretty much what you expected. This game and its events absolutely blew me away and were far better than I could’ve dreamed. I can’t imagine what will top it — perhaps catching Jeremy’s first MLB home run when he’s playing for the Orioles!

Thank you, Jeremy, for not only the ball, but for being so accommodating. One of Jeremy’s relatives told me prior to meeting him that as good a ballplayer as he is, he’s a better person. I can say that in addition to playing the game at a very high level, he’s also an athlete who treats his fans well. He certainly didn’t need to give me the ball, and I appreciate him giving away one of his bats to get the ball back. It means a ton.

As always, please check out The Ballpark Guide to help plan your upcoming trips and keep an eye on this blog as I gear up for my second road trip of the summer. You can also follow me on Twitter or send me an email to keep in touch.

The Ultimate Souvenir and a Pro’s Best Christmas

Traveling to dozens of professional ballparks for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com, has yielded some pretty amazing experiences over the past two summers. This is a story about my best ballpark souvenir ever and how it led to a pro ball player’s best Christmas.

Last summer, in the midst of a 12-day, 13-game road trip, I visited Arthur W. Perdue Stadium to watch the South Atlantic League’s Delmarva Shorebirds play the Greensboro Grasshoppers.

In the second inning, as I sat on the third base side, Delmarva Shorebirds left fielder Jeremy Nowak stepped to the plate and dug in against Greensboro starter Rett Varner. Varner had already struck out two Shorebirds in the game, but Nowak jumped on the pitch and launched it over the fence in left-center field.

During pre-game batting practice, I’d managed to snag 12 balls behind the outfield fence. As I watched Nowak’s shot disappear over the fence, I wondered if another fan or a team employee would go retrieve the ball. Or, perhaps, would the ball be sitting on the grass undisturbed?

This question lingered in my mind as I watched the game unfold, and at the end of the eighth inning, I decided to duck out early and see if the ball was still there.

I quickly made my way out the gate, along the fence down the first base line and eventually behind the outfield fence. When I got to the area that I figured Nowak’s ball must’ve landed, it stood out easily:

My first home run ball!

When I got back to my hotel, I checked the box score to see how the game ended. It turns out that Delmarva lost 2-1; Nowak’s home run was the only run the Shorebirds scored. I also took a look at Nowak’s stats to learn a bit about him. A 13th round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Mount Olive College, he spent 2010 with the Short-Season A Aberdeen IronBirds. He began the 2011 season in Aberdeen, too, but after collecting eight hits, two home runs and six RBIs in his first eight games, Nowak earned a promotion to Delmarva. I also saw that he hadn’t had any South Atlantic League home runs before the one I saw. All this is a long way of saying the home run ball sitting in my backpack was Nowak’s first at the South Atlantic League level.

I weighed my options. Part of me wanted to give the ball back to him, but another part of me was pumped to have my first home run ball. I finally decided it would mean more to him than to me, so I sent these Tweets to the team around 11 p.m. that night:

I was driving to Baltimore the next morning, but I wondered if I could leave the ball at Perdue Stadium’s ticket office for Nowak to pick up. Ideally, I would’ve loved to meet him to hand over the ball, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a response.

Fast forward to the middle of December, when I received an email from Alicia, who is Nowak’s girlfriend.

My boyfriend Jeremy Nowak recently showed me your Ballpark Guide website. Jeremy plays outfield for the Delmarva Shorebirds. You visited his stadium back in June and wrote an article about your experience on your website. Jeremy said that he randomly stumbled upon your blog one day when he was fooling around on the computer and googling his name. He was so shocked to get to the end of the article and to see that you found his home run ball! He told me that he would love to have the ball.

As soon as Jeremy said that, I knew that I wanted to try to get the ball back for him because I know it would mean so much to him. I just bought a beautiful case to hold and display the ball and I plan on getting it engraved. 

I would LOVE to give the ball back to him for a very special Christmas gift! If you could please contact me and let me know what you think, I would *really* appreciate it! Thank you so much for your time!

Wow! Nearly six months after I got the ball and tried to get it back to Nowak, (who I’ll call Jeremy from now on) here was another opportunity. I emailed back and forth with Alicia and arranged to send her the ball, as well as email her some photos I’d taken of Jeremy that she wanted to use for a collage. Before packing the ball up, I took a few last photos of it …

… and then put the ball in the mail the next day and kept my fingers crossed it would arrive before Christmas.

On Dec. 22, I heard back from Alicia:

The ball came in today!! I’m so happy it came in on time!! I put the pictures you sent me in a cute frame and then I put the article you wrote in a nice binder. Have a great holiday! I will talk to you soon. Thank you again for everything!

I have to admit that over the holidays, I thought about how Jeremy might like the ball on Christmas Day, and looked forward to hearing all about it. Alicia also said she’d send some photos of Jeremy with the ball to use on my blog.

On Jan. 4, Alicia emailed me:

Jeremy literally described this Christmas by saying, “This is the best Christmas I have ever had!” The whole thing went awesome!! I gave him a few other Christmas gifts I bought for him then I pretended that I was done with his gifts, so he gave me my gifts. When I was done opening mine, I acted like our gift exchange was over.

About two or three minutes later, I was like “Oh, Jeremy, I almost forgot … I have one more gift for you!” He was so confused! I tied a scarf around his eyes and made him sit on the ground. I placed the ball (which was in the case with the engraved plate) on the coffee table.I turned him toward the coffee table and took the scarf off his eyes. He looked at the ball, read the plate, and was like “Oh my god! It’s my ball!! How did you get it?! This is so awesome!”

He just kept looking at the ball and at me in a state of amazement! After that, I told him that I had another surprise for him. I put your article in this binder and added a cute little note in the beginning and end of it. He absolutely loved it!! 

The article in the binder worked out great because later in the evening when he went to show everything to his family and friends, he showed them the article first and then the ball … which made the story really great! 

After he looked through the binder, I told him that I had one last surprise for him! He was like “Alicia, are you serious?!” I made him this frame with the pictures that you sent me, the box score, and this cute motivational quote that he loves. Jeremy was so surprised and happy! He was like, “Does anyone in my family know you did this?” I was like,“No, I kept it a total secret!”He literally could not wait to get home and show everyone because his family and friends already knew the story about your article.  It was seriously such an amazing Christmas!

This Christmas was honestly my favorite Christmas too! It was great to give Jeremy such a special gift and to see his reaction toward it. I cannot thank you enough Malcolm!! This Christmas was honestly perfect! THANK YOU SO MUCH AGAIN!!
Amazing! Alicia provided plenty of photographic proof of Jeremy with the ball:

In the photo above, you can see the case Alicia bought and had engraved. Here’s a close-up:

Alicia included a photo of Jeremy with the display she’d made, which included a few of my photos:

One with Jeremy and the binder that included my blog entry about the whole adventure:

And finally, one of Jeremy and Alicia — with the ball, of course:

A couple days later, Alicia told me that she and Jeremy had put a thank you package in the mail for me, so I anxiously awaited it. When it arrived a week later, it felt like another Christmas morning for me. I carefully opened the envelope and inside, I found four things:

A thank you note from Jeremy:

A signed rookie card featuring Jeremy with the IronBirds:

A Tim Hortons gift card:

And a photo of Jeremy crossing home plate after he’d hit the home run. Somehow, Alicia had tracked down the photo from another fan who was in attendance that day. (She later put the photo in the blank spot on the collage.)

Strangely enough, I’m actually in the background of the photo above. See the guy with the yellow shirt and black cap who’s sitting alone in the top row of the section with the green seats? That’s me.

I have to say, this whole experience was extremely rewarding for me. It’s obviously amazing to get the generous package from Alicia and Jeremy, but it feels amazing to see that Jeremy was so excited about getting the ball back. As much as Alicia and Alicia have thanked me, I thank them equally for allowing me to be a part of such a great experience. Obviously, I’m excited to follow Jeremy’s career and hopefully see him in action again soon!

A full guide to Arthur W. Perdue Stadium is available on my website, as are guides to 15 other parks I’ve visited. Your visits and clicks help pay for my travels!

For more travel adventures, please bookmark this blog and follow me on Twitter.

Ball of the Day – 1 of 4

Today, and for the next three days, I’m going to post a photo of a different autographed ball I got on my last road trip for The Ballpark Guide. Make sure to follow me on Twitter or bookmark this blog to see my next post.

My first post is an autographed ball of Baltimore Orioles great, and 1970 American League MVP, Boog Powell:

Powell is a two-time World Series winner, four-time All-Star and hit 339 home runs in a career that spanned from 1961 to 1977. Powell currently owns Boog’s BBQ at Camden Yards, and frequently hangs out at the popular eatery and meets fans. I got to meet him and get a photo with him during my second game in Baltimore on June 30.

Which autographed ball will I feature tomorrow? Check back and find out!

Finally, I’ll have news on my next road trip very soon.

Baltimore Orioles – June 30

Because I’ve already blogged about Camden Yards, I’m not going to go overboard with this post. That said, my second Baltimore Orioles game in as many days was great. I really like this ballpark. It’s a ballpark, not a stadium, so it’s got a great feel to it. While it’s huge, it still has a “ballpark-y” feel, which is the type of place I enjoy.

I bought another $10 ticket before the game (Actually, I bought this one at the time of my 11 a.m. tour earlier in the day so that I wouldn’t have to wait in line at the ticket office prior to the gates opening):

Today was J.J. Hardy T-shirt giveaway day, so the lines outside the stadium were longer than usual. That said, I was still fairly close to the start of the line, so I had no problem getting a T-shirt:

I was glad to get into the ballpark today to find some shade. I’d been walking around the inner harbor for the last several hours, and it was extremely hot. Instead of spending time in the outfield during BP, I decided to go get a cold drink and hang out in the shade. On my way to one of the lounges off Eutaw Street, I saw an autograph booth. The three guys signing in about 30 minutes were Ron Hansen, Tippy Martinez and Jimmy Williams:

As much as I love autographs, I wasn’t too familiar with these guys, so I decided to forgo the line. After cooling off with a drink (and eating two cups of ice), I went down to the first base side and watched BP from up in the shade:

I then made a long, slow lap of the stadium and made it all the way back to Boog’s BBQ on Eutaw Street. A day earlier, I had a great BBQ sandwich for dinner, so I was going to repeat the process again. But as soon as I got into line, I saw Boog Powell was signing autographs for fans! He often does, from what I’ve read, so I asked him to sign a ball and I got a photo with him:

(I’ll photograph and blog about the ball at a later date. His autograph is a cool addition to a number of neat souvenirs I’ve picked up during my travels for The Ballpark Guide.)

This time, I got the pork sandwich, and while I preferred yesterday’s turkey, it was still good:

I ate my sandwich up in the stands behind right field, which allowed me to take a photo of the scene down Eutaw Street. I think the following picture gives you a good idea of the area:

After eating, I moved over to the upper deck down the third base line, where I could keep an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard to see how the Jays were doing. Losing to the Pirates? What’s the world coming to?

I spent the game’s late innings in center field, with this view …

… then went behind home plate and got this action photo of Alfredo Simon dealing to David Freese:

Despite a comeback attempt by the O’s, they lost again and I went back to my hotel to enjoy the view once again. Remember how I said the cleaning staff worked until at least 3 a.m. after the previous night’s game? Well, they were (obviously) at it again, and this time I got a photo:

The following morning, I’d head for the D.C. area, but not without a bit of sadness. My two days in Baltimore were even better and I’d expected — a great ballpark, amazing sights and lots to see and do. I’ll definitely be back.

Camden Yards Tour – June 30

If you read my previous post, you might remember that when I went to bed at 3 a.m. after my first Orioles game, the park was still full of people cleaning it. I woke up at 7:15 a.m. on June 30, looked out the window and saw the grounds crew hard at work. Talk about dedication! Now, it was the cleaning staff, not the grounds crew, that was working past 3 a.m., but the grounds crew was working on the field after the previous night’s game. Now, about eight hours later, they were back at work.

I decided to begin the last day of June with a Camden Yards guided tour. These tours cost $9 for adults, are 90 minutes in length (give or take) and run on the hour. I went down for the 11 a.m. tour, bought my ticket …

… and went through the Eutaw Street gates:

While we were waiting to get started, I noticed the home run markers all over Eutaw Street. Somehow, I’d missed them a day earlier. There are more than 50 total markers set into the concrete. The longest, of course, was the 1993 All-Star Game blast by Ken Griffey, Jr., that hit the warehouse on the fly:

As you can see below, these markers are spread out around Eutaw Street:

And you can find lots of names you recognize. The longest game home run in this area belongs to former Expo Henry Rodriguez, who blasted a 443-footer in 1997:

Soon, our tour began. Our guide, Floyd, was great. He was thoroughly knowledgeable, funny and interesting. He told us a lot about the planning and construction of the ballpark and even gave us facts about the surrounding area.

Below is the Bromo-Seltzer Tower. It’s a huge tower that has the largest clock face in the world — bigger than Big Ben, even. It’s close to Eutaw Street:

Our tour took us through the concourse, which was deserted except for the occasional Camden Yards staff:

Guess how many people work at the ballpark on game days? If you said 900 to 1,000, you’d be right.

Then, we went up the club level, where we went in the Brooks Robinson Suite:

Here are the tables and chairs just outside the suite:

We walked through the amazing suite level (this is Floyd, below) …

… and saw the opulence that is the suites. Behind these suites, there are a ton of lounges, such as the 2131 Lounge:

There are neat displays, including blown-up covers of every time an Oriole has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated:

Bars:

And these guys — two of the O’s three World Series trophies. These aren’t replicas, either. They’re the real deal:

There are also Gold Glove, MVP and Cy Young awards:

Here’s the rich-person entrance to Camden Yards:

By the way, these suites run $90,000 to $400,000 a year. It makes me cringe to think about that the suites at Yankee Stadium cost.

Next, we went down a hallway into the pressbox area. One neat thing Floyd pointed out was all the cable running to and from the pressbox:

We looked in the control room, which is where everything relating to the game happens. The scoreboards, ribbon boards, music, in-game announcements and anything else you can think of is run from here:

(Sorry — I know the photos aren’t great. The tour was crowded and lots of time, things were backlit.)

Here’s the actual pressbox:

When we began the tour, there was a youth baseball clinic taking place on the field. As a result, we wouldn’t be able to go down to field level. The O’s website says the tour includes a visit to the dugout, which is what I wanted to see the most. After we walked down from the press box, I was lamenting that we couldn’t get to the field. But Nicole Sherry, the ballpark’s head groundskeeper, called to Floyd and said we could go down. We went out onto the field. This is me. On the field:

We didn’t go in the dugout, but I took an up-close shot of it with me in front:

Though Floyd was great, he didn’t seem too eager to go down to the field, so the 25-person group was pretty thankful for Nicole. She’s one of just two female head groundskeepers in all of baseball. (The other is in Detroit at Comerica Park.) What an amazing, yet pressure-filled, job. And obviously, as I’ve noticed, her group is dedicated and skilled. Nicole posed for shots with a bunch of people from our group, so I got one, too:

We left the field via the umpires tunnel, which is directly behind home plate. We walked up the tunnel to another tunnel, which runs around under the stands. From here, you can access both clubhouses and, of course, the umpires room. Floyd showed us the peep hole in the umpires room door; apparently, it’s the only peep hole in the entire ballpark!

The tour cut through another fancy club level area, featuring a wooden Orioles sign:

And then, we were back out onto Eutaw Street where we looked at the right field foul pole, which is the original pole from Memorial Stadium, built back in 1954:

What an amazing tour! I’ve said a lot here, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the tour if you’re visiting Baltimore. The guide provides so much neat information that you’ll learn a ton, regardless of how much baseball knowledge you have.

I spent the rest of the day on a giant walk around the harbor (blisters on my feet will attest to that) before heading back to Camden Yards around 5 p.m. for my second O’s game.

Baltimore Orioles – June 29

I’ve wanted to go to Camden Yards for a game since I watched the 1993 All-Star Game and saw what a perfect-looking ballpark it was.

And on June 29, after driving up from Salisbury, MD, I was here for my first Baltimore Orioles game.

A lot can be said about Orioles Park at Camden Yards (the ballpark’s official name). It set the standard for present-day facilities, giving fans modern amenities and conveniences with a tip of the hat to the parks of yesteryear. Instead of building a giant cement mound and filling it with seats, the architects on this project took time to use the area’s existing environment and features of some of the game’s greatest historical parks to build Camden Yards.

I love staying at hotels with views of the ballpark I’m visiting. I did so last fall during my trip to see the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. For this trip, I booked two nights in a field-facing room in the Hilton Baltimore, which looks directly out onto the field.

After checking in around 2 p.m., I went up to my room, looked out the window and saw that some guys were already throwing:

And here’s a panorama looking out from my 17th floor room:

I knew I could get into the ballpark at 5 p.m. for the night’s game against St. Louis, so that gave me a few hours to explore before getting in. I took a few prerequisite shots in the area of Eutaw Street. Here are the Sports Legends Museum and the famous Babe Ruth statue:

I also looked around the pavilion at the end of the Eutaw Street, which features statues of the Orioles retired numbers. Here’s the #8 of Cal Ripken, Jr.:

I bought a ticket in the upper deck …

… and set out to walk around the ballpark:

After touring around, I went down to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area to check it out. There are a ton of sights to see in this area, which is a big tourist spot. No visit to Baltimore is complete without a stop here, but make sure you book yourself considerable time.

Back at the Eutaw Street gate, there was a small group of people waiting for the 5 p.m. gate opening:

The line moved quickly, and soon I was in.

I took an immediate right turn and went down into the center field stands for batting practice. Normally, I’d spend the entire BP in this area hoping to catch a ball. But I’ve gathered 25 balls, give or take, so far this trip and I felt like walking around more to see the sights. Before heading back to Eutaw Street, I took this panorama during BP:

Eutaw Street is full of things to see and do. There’s the Orioles team shop, numerous concession stands and historical information such as the Orioles Hall of Fame:

There are a couple key concession spot to hit — Boog’s BBQ and the Jack Daniels stand. Look at the chickens grilling at the latter:

My next stop was the flag court, which is full of fans both during BP and once the game begins:

I also took a quick walk through the very expensive team shop:

Once the inner gates opened 30 minutes after Eutaw Street opened up, I decided to go down to field level and watch the Cardinals hit from close up. Here are a couple guys who were watching:

Of course, that’s St. Louis hitting coach Mark McGwire and manager Tony La Russa. I’d really hoped to see Albert Pujols on this trip, but since he was injured a few weeks back, he wasn’t around. It was neat, however, to see the Major Leaguers up close. Here’s Skip Schumaker:

After BP wrapped up, I went back into the concourse and saw a number of neat things, such as a silent auction:

Lots of historical information (I’m too young to remember when the O’s were actually good, but they do have quite a history):

And a signed Michael Jordan Birmingham Barons jersey available for a cool $2,500:

I went back to the stands around 6:30 p.m. to watch some guys warm up. Here’s Vladimir Guerrero:

And Derrek Lee and J.J. Hardy:

Before first pitch, I found a spot along the wall in the flag court and took up a spot with this view:

Then, an inning later, went up into the stands behind the right field foul pole after I’d made a quick stop at Boog’s BBQ to get a BBQ turkey sandwich:

It was amazing. I cringe at spending $10 on a sandwich, but it did contain lots of meat and the taste was great. You can add onions, sauces and horseradish, too. The horseradish, I soon found out, is killer.

After eating, I went back into the concourse took walk around a bit. Here, I saw the banners for the O’s six HOFers — Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, Jr.:

I then climbed to the upper deck and saw M&T Bank Field, home of the Ravens …

… and the O’s player parking lot:

With another climb, I was up to the top of the upper deck in the right field corner, where I had this view:

Check out the scoreboard. Isn’t it awesome? It’s got a modern screen but the use of the iron beams gives it a historic feel:

I then went closer to the home plate area to take this panorama:

Eventually, I made my way to center field, where both teams’ bullpens are located. From up high, here’s the Cardinals bullpen:

And remember when I was in the flag court earlier? Here’s a bird’s-eye view of it:

Soon, I climbed back down to the main level. It’s a good thing I do all this walking on my baseball road trips to help offset all the ballpark food I eat. I sat along the first base line with this view:

And watched a masterful performance by Cards starter Chris Carpenter:

Carpenter went the distance, throwing 131 pitches to get the 5-1 win. The final pitch hit 95 mph on the gun, too. Here’s his pitch count:

After the game, while other people were stuck in traffic or waiting for public transit, I walked about one minute and was back in my hotel. When I got up to my room, I took a panorama of the ballpark:

A while later, some of the lighting was cut out and here’s what the scene was:

Here’s something that may interest only me, but is worth sharing. We go to games, eat, make a mess, then leave. We don’t really think about how much work goes into cleaning up the ballpark, but we expect it to be clean when we arrive the following day. That said, I watched Camden Yards on and off through the evening, and despite the lights being dimmed, there was plenty of work that went on. I watched the grounds crew watering the infield and the cleaning staff meticulously going row by row to pick up garbage, then pressure wash the entire stadium.

I finally went to bed around 3 a.m., and the crew was still at work! I don’t know how long they stayed, but that was a full five hour after the conclusion of the game. I’m impressed. We should all be thankful about how much hard work goes into the upkeep of such a great facility.